Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky has been awarded a contract to build nine more CH-53K King Stallion in a deal which also includes a contract option for a further nine of these heavy-lift transport helicopters.
The US$735.9m contract, awarded on June 25 by US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), covers nine low-rate initial production (LRIP) Lot 5 CH-53Ks, all of which will be delivered in 2024 as part of the 200 aircraft total in the programme of record for the US Marine Corps (USMC). The option for nine more helicopters under LRIP Lot 6 will be exercised with a contract award in fiscal year 2022 (FY22). The Lot 5 award brings the programme total aircraft, either delivered or under contract, to 33.
The US Navy states that the overall cost of the Lot 5 contract is US$878.7m, of which the Sikorsky element for the nine helicopters is US$97.6m per aircraft. This will reduce to US$94.7m per aircraft for the Lot 6 King Stallions from a total procurement cost of US$852.5m. These figures do not include the engines and other Government Furnished Equipment. The FY21 Lot 5 and FY22 Lot 6 contracts represent an average unit airframe cost reduction of US$7.4m from FY20 Lot 4 production to FY22 Lot 6.
The CH-53K programme will enter the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) phase next month (in July 2021) and is poised to support the USMC’s declaration of Initial Operational Capability (IOC). In preparation for the start of the IOT&E process, three System Demonstration Test Article (SDTA) aircraft are currently being operated by the USMC’s Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1) at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River in North Carolina.